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From Middle English sotilte, from Old French sutilté, inherited from Latin subtīlitās, from subtīlis (subtle). Doublet of subtility.


  • IPA(key): /ˈsʌtəlti/
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subtlety (countable and uncountable, plural subtleties)

  1. (uncountable) The quality or fact of being subtle.
    With all his usual subtlety, he quietly fixed the problem before anyone else noticed it.
  2. (countable) An instance of being subtle, a subtle thing, especially a subtle argument or distinction.
    The subtleties of this overture are often overlooked.
  3. (countable) An ornate medieval illusion dish or table decoration, especially when made from one thing but crafted to look like another.
    At the king's coronation feast, several subtleties were served between main courses.


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